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Top casino union boss to leave Atlantic City

He’s led Atlantic City casino workers through three strikes, been arrested at protests nearly 10 times, and won workers including housekeepers, cocktail servers and others the best contract they had ever had.

Now Bob McDevitt is stepping down as president of the main union for Atlantic City casino workers, Local 54 of Unite Here, after 26 years as one of the most powerful people in Atlantic City, able to bring the industry to its knees when he felt workers were being treated unfairly.
It is a power that he has used repeatedly; sometimes, the mere threat of a strike prompted casinos to sign a new contract.


“We represent people who traditionally have not been what you would consider high-wage workers — housekeepers, bartenders, cocktail servers, people who clean public areas,” he said. “It’s one thing to work as a waiter over the summer while you’re in college; it’s quite another to try to support yourself and a family on that. That’s where we come in.”

The union represents about 10,000 workers in Atlantic City who have been able to live a middle-class existence doing jobs that typically pay less in other industries.
Pugnacious and gregarious, quick with a joke and even quicker with a profanity, McDevitt was a fixture in Atlantic City who exerted his influence over local and state elected officials on matters affecting Atlantic City and its casinos. During protests, he sat down in roadways and blocked traffic; during Boardwalk rallies, he yelled into bullhorns.

Two years ago, he nearly died from a systemic infection that developed from a cut on his foot, which led to its amputation. But he recovered in time to help negotiate a new contract last year providing significant raises, and maintaining health care and pension benefits, including a $22 hourly wage for housekeepers in the final year of the four-year deal.
The new contract was reached without the union going on strike. Previously, walkouts were staged in 1999, 2004 and 2016.

The 2004 walkout, mainly over casinos’ use of non-union subcontractors, lasted 34 days. But the 2016 strike was the most rancorous and controversial: It led to the closure of the Trump Taj Mahal casino, which at the time was owned by billionaire investor Carl Icahn.

Bob McDevitt, a top casino workers' union president in Atlantic City, New Jersey, has resigned his position.He’s led Atlantic City ca[…]

In New Jersey, cancer-stricken casino dealers push for Atlantic City smoking ban

Tammy Brady began her career as an Atlantic City casino dealer at the age of 18. Now 55, she has stage 2 breast cancer.

“While I’m not sure we will ever know the exact cause of my illness, I can’t help but wonder if it would have happened if the casinos hadn’t forced me to work in second-hand smoke,” said Brady, who works at the Borgata casino.
Holly Diebler, a craps dealer at Tropicana, is undergoing chemotherapy for throat cancer.


“I don’t even know how long I’m going to live,” she said. “I love my job; I don’t want to leave it. But all my oncologists have told me this is a life-and-death choice.”

They were among numerous casino employees who testified Thursday before two state Assembly committees in favor of a bill that would prohibit smoking in Atlantic City’s nine casinos.
No vote was taken on the bill, as in an identical hearing on Feb. 13. Gov. Phil Murphy has promised to sign the bill if it passes the Legislature, but thus far, leaders of the Democrat-controlled Assembly and Senate have not committed to allowing the bill to move forward and be voted upon.

The bill would close a loophole in the state’s 2006 indoor smoking law. That measure was written specifically to exempt casinos from bans on smoking indoors. Currently, smoking is permitted on 25% of a casino floor in Atlantic City.
“I don’t want to take away your right to kill yourself by smoking,” said Assemblyman Don Guardian, a former mayor of Atlantic City. “I do want to take away your right to kill someone else by smoking in a casino.”

The casino industry opposes a smoking ban, saying it would lose customers and revenue if smoking were banned while still being allowed in casinos in nearby states.

But Andrew Klebenow of Las Vegas-based C3 Gaming, said many casinos that have ended smoking are thriving financially, including casinos near Washington, D.C., and Boston, and in Maryland.
Business groups opposed a ban, and Bob McDevitt, president of Local 54 of the Unite Here casino workers union, predicted that prohibiting smoking would cost the industry 10% of its revenue and cause the closure of at least one casino.

Numerous cancer patients working in Atlantic City, New Jersey, casinos are helping fortify a push for the state Legislature to pass a smoking ban in the state's gambling capital.Tammy Brady began her car[…]

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